In a clever play on words, les temps (temperature) becomes time in the phrase, temps de travail (working time). The album offers a score to a cold work day, from overture “les travaux” (“jobs”) to finale “clock out”. Frost, ice and snow decorate the recording from beginning to end, the duo’s field recordings holding their own with their ornate instrumentation.
temps de travail, syncopé is the long-awaited follow-up to Stefan Christoff & Joseph Sannicandro‘s 2014 album Les Rumeurs de la Montagne Rouge, En Choeur, Convergent. While that album was overtly political, the new set makes its points through inference alone. One may read headlines into the music ~ a cold political climate, a frigid job industry ~ or one may simply recall the fact that it’s winter in Montreal. To listen is to experience the trudge to work and through work, as well as the long, icy two-way commute. It’s enough to make one put on a sweater, even if listening at home.
And yet, despite all this, one also gains a feeling of winter’s beauty. The season is stark, but the woods are lovely, dark and deep. A clear line can be drawn to Pagetos, the classic winter album by Matteo Uggeri, Luca Nauri and Francesco Giannico. The guitar is patient, experimenting with notes, exhibiting no need to go outside. Electronic patterns shimmer like sunlight on snow. In “cyclic frost”, one can hear the rustling of metal objects, like ski equipment. “winter walks” includes the sound of construction vehicles, establishing then abandoning tempo, as if afraid to emerge from slumber. The very title of “SAD lamp” is a reminder of emotional stasis. And yet the duo continues to make music, scoring the scenery, confident in the upcoming thaw.
The title piece is separated into two parts and takes up half of the album, the second part clocking in at twenty minutes. Piano notes establish baseline harmonies as strings swirl like an outer whirlwind. But then, finally, the welcome sounds of the evening commute: workers emerging from offices, cheerful in conversation no matter how cold les temps. A tumbling spoken word sample speaks of “where to go” and “how to go”, offering its own impressionistic implication: that work and winter are not immutable concepts. They are what we make of them, and Christoff and Sannicandro have transformed them from conditions to endure into conditions to enjoy. (Richard Allen)